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‘Teflon’ Merkel Upbraided by U.S. Diplomats, WikiLeaks Shows

U.S. diplomats referred to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a “teflon” politician who steers clear of conflict and described Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as inexperienced, according to cables posted by WikiLeaks.org.

“When cornered, Merkel can be tenacious but is risk averse and rarely creative,” said a cable addressed to President Barack Obama dated March 24, 2009, 10 days before the leaders met at a NATO summit in the German town of Baden Baden.

The dispatches from the U.S. embassy in Berlin are among 251,287 diplomatic cables being posted by WikiLeaks this week and published today by Der Spiegel magazine as well as newspapers including the New York Times and the Guardian. The German government said it “regrets” the publication, though bilateral ties will not be harmed as a result of the leaks.

Westerwelle, who is also vice chancellor, is a “wild card” whose “exuberant personality” and inexperience prevent him from being a reliable ally, the documents said. The documents cite Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg as placing the blame on Westerwelle for blocking a larger German troop increase in Afghanistan.

Westerwelle “had been the single biggest obstacle to the government seeking a bigger increase in German troops for Afghanistan,” rather than the opposition Social Democratic Party, said a cable dated Feb. 4, 2010.

‘Circumspect Ally’

The American envoys prefer to deal with Merkel’s chancellery staff on diplomacy matters, though they criticize the German leader for looming in the background of political debates and using foreign affairs to further her domestic agenda. Merkel would be a “circumspect ally” to the U.S. in the months before the September 2009 elections, the cable read.

“We regret this publication,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters today in Berlin. “These are secret cables and foreign policy requires a certain level of confidentiality.”

Volker Kauder, the caucus leader in parliament for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said the U.S. needs to examine its security systems.

“Such a major country, a world leader, does have to think about how to secure its data so not just anybody can get a hold of it,” he told reporters.

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